The Starforge Beta Call

Yes. That’s right folks. We’ve reached that moment. It’s here. My work on Strange Catch (filler title) wraps up today (I left off last week in the midst of the ending) so today I’ll be starting the last round of Alpha Edits to Starforge. Which means … Beta 1 time!

As with the Alpha, I’d like to get two rounds of Beta in. With 500,000 words, Starforge is a bit of a juggernaut. I know we’re bound to miss something—just look at the number of typos in your average 110,000 word Trad Pub publication to see exactly how tough finding every mistake can be—but I do want to get this as clean as possible before the release date.

Which isn’t set yet, mind. Still aiming for November, though. And we’re getting close to having a set date in place as well as a pre-order available.

Anyway, those of you that have Beta’d before, it’s time to rise up. E-mails will be going out this week!

If you’ve not Beta read before but would like to try, keep an eye out, then leave a comment below and we can get in touch. Beta Reading, for those unfamiliar with the process, is what a lot of people think of when they think “editing.” This post goes into more detail (just jump down to the section on Beta Editing), but the gist of it is that this is where you’re looking for typos, incorrect homophones, extra spaces, missing dialog tags … the works. This is the fine-tuning, the catching of out-of-place letters or missing words or any of that stuff.

And it’s starting very soon. So, if you’re interested and have been a Beta Reader before, watch your inbox. If you’ve never Beta Read before but would like to try, leave a comment!

We’re inching closer and closer, people. Starforge is nearly upon us!

Now, I’ve got to get back to it!

The Starforge Cover Reveal

Ladies and gentlemen, readers of all ages, and fans of Science Fiction, I give you the cover to the third and final book in the UNSEC Space Trilogy: Starforge.

I don’t really know what else to say, except perhaps “Behold!” once again, and maybe “What do you think?”

Well, that and if you hit the jump, there’s both a text and textless 4K background version you can save for your desktop viewing pleasure. So click that little jump down below …

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Being a Better Writer: A Villain Protagonist Ending

Welcome back writers! Monday is here, I’ve recovered from my cold, and that means it’s time to drop another installment of writing goodness on its scheduled day, rather than later in the week. This week, we’re going to be addressing a follow-up to a post from earlier this year in which we talked about giving our story a villain protagonist. In that post we talked about a number of things that change for your story if you’re writing from the prospective of a villain (not just an antagonist) but there was one thing that didn’t come up during that discussion: An ending. And yes, it won’t quite be like your typical story ending.

So today, we’re going to talk about that. But first, some quick news reminders from the weekend (which did have their own post, so if you want more detail, go here). The biggest of these is the reminder that the cover for Starforge will be revealed September 1st, 2022, which is this week. So far you’ve had a teaser of what the cover for this juggernaut of a Sci-Fi novel will look like, but starting September 1st, you’ll all get to see it. And hey, there’s a 4K background version too, ready to grace your desktop. So be here September first for your first look at the cover that’ll be in your hands come November!

Second quick reminder: 10,000 in ten years. If you missed last Friday’s news post, in the nine-and-a-half years since I published my first book (One Drink) back in 2013, I have sold almost 9,000 copies across my lexicon. With my ten year anniversary of writing coming up in February 2023, the goal is to clear the last 1,000 sales before that date, meaning “10,000 copies sold in ten years!” There’s more about the specifics in last Friday’s post, so go check that out if you’re curious, but the goal stands as the most important part. 10,000 in ten years, baby! That’s the goal!

Anyway, that’s all the news I want to tackle at this particular moment, so let’s get down to business and talk shop. Or rather, villain protagonists, and how you might handle leading their story to an end. Because as we discussed with our prior post on villains, you can’t handle a story in exactly the same manner as you would with a heroic protagonist. A villain is a villain, and that means convention goes right out the window. A villain doesn’t bring peace to the land (well, not the way a hero would), or “save the day,” at least conventionally. See, a villain protagonist ending is usually the ending most stories we tell do their best to avoid.

So hit that jump, and let’s talk about writing and ending where good doesn’t win … or at least reaches a compromise.

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Friday News Post – Cover Reveal Countdown, Sick Days, Strange Catch, and more!

Hello readers and writers! I’m back! Well … almost.

Let’s start with the most prevalent news before we move on to other stuff: The sick days. Yes, I spent a good chunk of this week sick. No, it wasn’t COVID, at least not that I know of. None of the symptoms matched, so I didn’t get tested. It was, as far as I can tell, just a run-of-the-mill cold caught from a friend’s kids. But it did delay some stuff that was supposed to take place this week, such as Being a Better Writer being delayed from Monday to Wednesday, the finishing of Strange Catch, and the editing for beta of Starforge (we’ll have more on all of these in a little bit).

So, this does mean I’ve revised some of my own scheduling for things. I lost about three days of work due to being sick, but I’m going to try and condense a few things and make up for it. Next Monday’s Being a Better Writer should be up on the usual day, I worked on Strange Catch yesterday and will continue working on it today … basically, I’m trying to make up for the days I lost, and hopefully things will be back on speedy track next week. After all, August is ending, and September is almost upon us, and with that we’ll only be a few months from the release of Starforge!


Speaking of Starforge, we’re also less than a week out from the cover reveal! It’s next Thursday on September 1st, people! You’ve all seen the teaser (and if not, here’s the link to the tease to get your appetite whetted), so now it’s just counting down. Seven days, people! Seven days!

Speaking of Starforge, isn’t the Alpha 2 supposed to be ending soon? Why yes! Yes it is! Getting sick pushed things back a few days, but the plan is still to start making edits in earnest as soon as Strange Catch‘s draft is done (more on that in a bit). Which means that in addition to the Alpha 2 nearing its end … the Beta 1 is coming.

That’s right, Beta Readers. I know you’ve been patiently waiting all summer. Well, your moment is nigh. Next week, as I start the Alpha 2 edits, the Beta call for Beta 1 will go out. This is to make the process similar to the Alpha 2 in that each chapter for the Beta 1 will go up as it is edited from the Alpha 2. While some of you who haven’t dipped your toes into the book might wonder “But won’t that mean we’ll be waiting for you to upload the next chapter every time?” to which I say “I dare you to keep that pace” with a bit of a cheeky grin. Starforge is a juggernaut, and I think I’ll be able to keep ahead of the pack, especially with a small day or two headstart.

Either way, the implication here is pretty clear: Starforge will go into Beta 1 very soon. We’ve got the cover reveal next week, a Beta Call coming … Starforge nears at long last.

Oh, and eARC preview invitations will start going out sometime after that. Hopefully we can drum up a little early fire from a few reviewers before the big drop in November!

Speaking of November, there still isn’t a specific release date yet. Right now the focus is on Beta 1 and 2, then Copy-edit and so on and so forth.

Okay, that’s all the news on Starforge, I think. Hit the jump and let’s talk about some other stuff.

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Being a Better Writer: Improving Your Writing Output

Hello writers! So, full confession time: I’m not quite at 100% yet. In fact, I might even try for a nap after this post is over. We’ll see how I feel.

But I’ve got to be good enough to deliver today’s Being a Better Writer post! After all, I promised it!

Now, a quick bit of news prior to jumping into writing stuff: We are now just as day before one week away from the Starforge cover reveal! Though I’ve lost a few days to this blasted cold, Rest assured that Starforge is coming, and you’ll see the cover soon enough! If you missed the initial announcement, September 1st is the date you’re looking for!

Okay, with that news out of the way, let’s dive into writing. Today’s topic isn’t actually from the list, because in light of my current status as less-than-100%, I didn’t want to tackle one of the remaining items on the list because they’re fairly complicated concepts that both readily lend themselves to large posts and will likely require more brainpower than I was confident I could deliver for a sustained time.

But this writing topic, plucked from a run through the various feeds I check each morning? This one is straightforward, relatively simple, and easy to cover. If you’re a bit let down by this week’s BaBW covering something so basic, I would remind that remembering the basics is the best way to keep our writing output consistent in its quality and production.

So today we’re discussing a fairly simple but also common question often heard from new writers: How do I improve my writing output?

Hit the jump, and let’s get started.

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Sick Day

Sorry for the truncated post and lack of Being a Better Writer today, writers. But last night I started feeling cruddy, and now am beset by phlegm, a sore throat, headache, and fatigue: all signs that something has caught me.

I don’t think it’s COVID, but I’ll probably get checked anyway just in case. But I’m definitely not writing anything today. BaBW will return tomorrow or Wednesday as a consequence of my sick day.

I hope you’re all having a less goo-filled Monday, and I’ll see you later this week!

Starforge Cover Reveal Countdown!

Two weeks.

That’s right, folks! In just two weeks, on September 1st, 2022, you will all get your first full look at the cover for the upcoming conclusion to the UNSEC Space trilogy, Starforge. For now, all you’re getting is the teaser above … though you can probably make some guesses based on what you’re seeing there, though that image is distorted and fuzzy.

So, a little bit on Starforge, both regarding the cover and current Alpha progress. Coverwise, the cover is done. I’m waffling between adding review quotes from prior titles to the final, but the cover itself is done. As is a 4K background This means on September 1st, not only will you get to see the full cover in all its glory, there will also be a 4K background version, both with title text and without.

Those of you who familiar with what happens to the site around a book launch can also be assured that yes, we’ll see something similar coming to the site in advance of Starforge. As wonderful as it has been to have Axtara gracing the top of the page with her grin, it’s time for her to take a step back!

Now, speaking of the book itself, there isn’t much to add that wasn’t said on Monday: Beta is the next step! We’re still aiming for a November release, and early-reader eARC copies may start going out as soon as the second wave of changes to the Alpha have been made. Beta editing will probably be pretty involved, and hopefully I can squeeze in a third pass before release just in case. Once the first Beta is done, I’ll be looking at getting Starforge’s pre-order page set up. Basically, every day is a day closer to Starforge being in everyone’s hands at last!

Beta also means previews in full on the site and on Patreon. At least the first five chapters of Starforge‘s near forty chapter length.

Basically, if you’ve been waiting for the conclusion to the adventure that began with Colony, this is IT. Once again, it is a trilogy. No “surprise” fourth book. No lackluster endings that are really just fodder for another sequel. This. Is. It.

And two weeks from today, you’ll get to see the cover atop it all.

So start getting ready, readers.

Starforge is coming.

Being a Better Writer: Campfire Conversations and Giving Characters Heart

Welcome back writers! It’s a new day, a new week, and a new chance to write something!

Me, I’m looking forward to finishing another short, currently titled Strange Catch, about a young teen in the Axtara universe (but on the other side of the continent) who finds himself in the company of a seafolk with a most unusual request …

It’s got some work to go. I’m discovery-writing this one, so already I’ve built in a few plot elements that I’ll need to go back and weave into the start of the tapestry for everything to make sense. But hey, I’m having fun and with some hammering I’m pretty certain it’ll make a nice addition to More Unusual Events. How about any of your writing? Any of you get anything special written this weekend? That short you’ve been dreaming about for months, perhaps?

There’s never a better time to start than today. Just saying.

Now, before we get down to business with today’s Being a Better Writer post, let’s go over other upcoming news, as I’ve got a few items on the docket. First up, Starforge progress! I know a lot of you have been waiting for news on this one, and I’m delivering today. Two bits of Starforge news.

The first? The Alpha 2 is going quite well. There are small things here and there to clean up, but it seems that the outlook thus far from those readers that have finished this juggernaut has been pretty positive. With that in mind, unless the Alpha Readers still working their way through find something huge, I can with high accuracy predict that the next phase of Starforge will be be Beta! Woooo! Getting closer and closer to that November release!

Second bit of Starforge news: The cover is complete. Yes, you read that properly. Which means that there will soon be a cover reveal so you can all finally see what you’ll be getting your hands on (and first-time readers will see) this fall when Starforge releases.

Look for a news post with the date soon!


Now, with that news out of the way, there’s one last thing I wish to talk about: Sales. No, not the deep discounts kind. I want to talk about sales numbers.

See, last weekend someone asked me about total sales numbers, wondering how many copies of a book I’d sold. So I sat down with my records and started going over the numbers. Lifetime sales of each book, adding them up and adding them to the total.

Readers, to date I have sold over 8000 books. In fact, the number is only a few hundred shy of being an internet meme! And just over a thousand copies shy of 10,000 books sold.

That’s a lot of books! And it’s only a beginning. With Starforge coming, and a new Jacob Rocke novel plus an Axtara sequel on the horizon, I think that there’s a chance that things could pass 10,000 this year. Maybe. If I’m lucky.

Still, that’s a monumental number. Maybe someday that’ll be the number of books I move in one year instead of ten (assuming I hit 10,000 by year’s end), but for now? Most people are lucky to ever sell a hundred books. Eight thousand is a large number of titles moved.

Oh, and just for the Axtara fans out there: While it everyone’s favorite banking dragon has moved more copies than Jungle, she’s still far behind Colony. About a thousand copies behind! Though she still sells pretty well.

Anyway, I’m considering ways to see about driving 10,000 sales before the year’s end, as 2023 will mark the ten year anniversary of One Drink unveiling itself to the world. It would be nice to have 10,000 sales to have shown for my first ten years worth of work!


Right right, we’ve talked enough about the news. Let’s actually get down to business and talk about writing. Today I want to talk about something that I touched on in a previous post, but only as an example before getting back on track.

Today? I want to talk about this concept in full. It’s something that can be a bit of a contentious topic across both writers and audience alike, but it’s also something that for many means the difference between a good book and a merely okay one.

I want to talk about what I call “campfire conversations,” and how they give characters, especially secondary ones, heart.

Hit the jump, and let’s dive into this (somewhat) contentious topic.

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OP-ED: Why I Think Streaming Has Made a Mistake

Max here with an Op-Ed, people. Shouldn’t be a long one, but hey, it’ll give you some content while waiting for the cover reveal for Starforge! More on that later (it deserves its own post). For now, today’s Op-Ed.

So, if you haven’t heard, Disney has joined the ranks of streaming services announcing price hikes. In this case, it’s Disney+’s first while for others such as Hulu or ESPN it could just be written away as “yet another price hike.” In addition, Disney unveiled that Disney+ will now have advertising! Just like everyone wanted!

Of course, no one wanted this. But one thing has become clear over the last year or two of the so-called streaming wars: For many of the companies involved, the goal is merely to return to the most profitable section of entertainment they can think of, AKA cable.

Don’t believe it? Look at how they’re rolling out advertisements. Did you know that cable television was advertisement free originally? That’s right! Originally, you were paying to not have ads like broadcast television did. But once the audience was captured, the ads rolled in, until cable television became an advertising service more than an entertainment venue. After all, why collect money from one side of the equation when you can collect it from two sides of the equation? Double-dipping! American business ingenuity at its finest!

Disney very clearly has its sights set on the old ways, with how they excitedly push “bundling” Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN in one package for a “reduced” rate. Nevermind that there are advertisements now, look how good a deal you’re getting! Similar is happening with Netflix and other streaming services as CEOs seek to return to the golden age of captive television piggy banks.

The problem as I see it, however, is that it just won’t work. Because the market that let that golden piggy bank exist no longer does.

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